White spots on your skin? It could be a number of skin conditions most of which are treatable at your dermatologist. Healthy Living looks at one of the culprits, Vitiligo.

Marleni Cuellar, Reporting

The skin can suffer from a number of conditions. One of which, includes changes in pigment. Vitiligo is one condition that causes changes in pigment. Cosmetic dermatologist, Dr Yisela Flores explains the characteristics of this condition.

Dr. Yisela Flores, Cosmetic Dermatologist

“Vitiligo is usually a skin condition. This one is characterized by different size spots but the really important thing is that it is a white spot. That is the principal characteristic of Vitiligo. The second thing is symmetric dermatitis; of course this one is on both hands, both feet means that it’s on the two areas, that is characteristic for the vitiligo.”

The white spots are due to a loss of pigment in the skin, due to destruction of pigment-forming cells known as melanocytes. The exact cause of the destruction of these cells is not known. There are several theories which include genetic factors, autoimmune factors, trauma to the skin and anxiety or stress can be associated. As for symptoms, the white spot is usually the first preliminary indicator.

Yisela Flores

Dr. Yisela Flores

“Usually the Vitiligo is a asymptomatic dermatitis. The patient normally have good health really and never feel an itch, burn nothing like that on the spot but the important point is here that we investigate the other problems around. It’s not the simple Vitiligo and that’s it. Like eight to twenty percent of the patient have relation to hyperthyroidism problem, hypothyroidism too, some kind of anemia, the other problems are like diabetes mellitus too and the other problems in other glands in our bodies.”

It affects both sexes and all races, but is more visible in darker skinned persons. Typically vitiligo would develop it before age 20. The diagnosis is made based on a physical examination, medical history, and laboratory tests and a look at your family history.

Dr. Yisela Flores

“A good percent of the patients tell us “no doctor we no have no history in my family, nobody have this problem” but what happens is that sometimes the Vitiligo is in other areas like axillary area, genital area, perianal area and you never see the problem and for that reason the patient doesn’t have the know the history for that. Psychological, people feel different. More if you have the Vitiligo in your exposed areas. The people around don’t have the knowledge about that then I don’t know why but they always think it’s a contagious problem or something like that and then the patient feel a little bit different and affect the self esteem sometimes.”

Vitiligo is not infectious and cannot be spread to other people. However, the condition can be progressive, and over time the white patches will spread to other areas of the body. There is hope for vitiligo patients, as treatment is available.

Dr. Yisela Flores

“I have several patients with Vitiligo, some of them are children and some of them are adults. Of course important thing si the age for prognosis, why: We have better prognosis with the children. With this patient we can get practically the permanent re-pigmentation with the adults it’s different because of the other factors around like stress or the other diseases linked with the Vitiligo. The re-pigmentation takes different time. Some take two months or three months others like six months or more that depends on the area. It’s more convenient localized Vitiligo. If you have general Vitiligo or more than thirty percent of your body surface then we can recommends other types of treatments.”

Dr Flores’ warns that if there is a spot that concerns you to resist self medicating as she has seen persons who develop pigment changes as a result of misusing crèmes and ointments. A simple observation of the area over time will indicate whether you should see a dermatologist or not.

Dr. Yisela Flores

“We can observe first, depends if the spot have improvement or of course If continue spreading you need evaluation…Vitiligo is not a simple test…disregard if there are any other problems…dermatologist do the job for the skin but if the patient have any other problem, then send with the next other specialist.”

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